The punishment must have come as a reprieve for a city doctor caught in a matrimonial discord,which could have attracted criminal prosecution.
A city court in a recent order said while Dr Ashok Bagga must be punished for submitting a false affidavit,prosecuting him under the charge of perjury would be too much.
A research officer at Safdarjung Hospital,Dr Bagga was let off after being asked to shell out Rs 50,000 as the cost of litigation to his estranged wife and clear all alimony arrears of his daughter.
The affidavit in question was submitted by Dr Bagga during the pendency of his divorce petition in April 1998. The document stated certain facts that contradicted his own stand in another matrimonial litigation between the couple.
However,wary of recording a statement in support of this affidavit,he later withdrew it from the court.
But his estranged wife,a manager with a bank,took strong exception to the affidavit and asked the court to take judicial note of it. She wanted the court to try him under charge of perjury.
Not convinced by the womans objections,the magistrate hearing the case exonerated Bagga of the penal charge,saying that even though he took contradictory stands,he did not mislead the court.
However,the woman then moved the sessions court,arguing that the magistrates soft view of the doctors act was not justified,as he had submitted the document to deprive his daughter of her legal rights and injure her reputation.
Defending himself,the doctor said he had not given any evidence in support of the affidavit and withdrew it without letting it affect the trial.
Besides,he argued,he was regularly paying maintenance to his daughter in accordance with the magistrates directive,thereby having no prejudice against the 13-year-old.
After perusing the arguments,Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) Reena Singh Nag noted that though Bagga did not pursue the contentions of his affidavit,it could not be refuted that he submitted a document in a court knowing it was wrong.
Citing several Supreme Court judgements,the judge observed that an affidavit was evidence within the meaning of Section 191 (giving false evidence) of the IPC,and a person swearing to a false affidavit is guilty of perjury punishable under Section 193. The observation of the magistrate that the doctor did not lead evidence is erroneous,as a fact can be proved in the court of law by ways of leading documentary evidence as well as oral evidence, noted ASJ Nag,setting aside the previous order.
The court said in such circumstances,if no relief was given to the woman,it would mean vindicating Baggas stand,which would not be expedient and in the interest of justice.
The judge simultaneously noted that now when the nuptial tie between the couple had been severed by a divorce decree passed during the pendency of the present case,it would be apt if the doctor was not made to stand a trial. The court rather asked him to straighten the record by reimbursing Rs 50,000 as litigation expenses to the woman.
But sounding words of caution,ASJ Nag said if the doctor failed in fulfilling the terms,the magistrate,in the interests of justice,shall proceed against him by initiating a criminal prosecution.